Iran’s new envoy to Baghdad denied that Tehran was meddling in the affairs of that country.
“We support the government elected by the Iraqi people that respects the constitution and all the parties,” Hassan Danaie-Far said Tuesday in Baghdad, AFP reported.
More than five months after a parliamentary election leaders in Baghdad have been unable to agree on a new government.
It was his first meeting with the press corps since arriving in the Iraqi capital. He replaced Hassan Kazemi Qomi.
“We are making efforts to support the political process and restoration of stability in this country…We do not interfere in its internal affairs,” the ambassador was quoted as saying.
Regarding Iran’s nuclear agenda he said latest round of sanctions by the UN and some big powers will not affect growing trade with Iraq which is now worth billions of dollars.
“The sanctions will not affect economic relations between our two countries”.
“Economic relations (between Iraq and Iran) are on its natural path despite having been disrupted and stopped for several decades,” Danaie-Far said referring to the almost quarter century of hostility and cut in relations due to the 1980-88 war imposed on Iran by ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who was a darling of the West until his overthrow and execution in 2003.
The conflict killed an estimated million people on both sides, inflicted a trillion dollars in economic damage on Iran and devastated its infrastructure.
The UN Security Council hit Iran with a fourth set of sanctions in June over its nuclear program. The US, EU, Canada and Australia announced their own new punitive measures which contain provisions to penalize Tehran’s trading partners.
The envoy put the value of Iran-Iraq trade at seven billion dollars a year and said the figure will increase in the near future.
He, however, side-stepped questions about alleged smuggling of oil derivatives to Iran from northern Iraq which has ‘alarmed’ US officials in Baghdad.
“We consider that as an Iraqi domestic issue,” Danaie-Far said.
“We have nothing to do with it. There are lots of goods that come in and go out from our borders to other countries. We do not intervene in such issues. Iraqi officials must stop the cargo” if smuggling is involved, he added.
Increase in Narcotics Seizures at Borders
Commander of the border patrol General Hussein Zolfaghari announced a record 35 percent increase in the volume of narcotics confiscated by his men.
“This is while there was a 50 percent fall in the amount of drugs seized inside Iran -- indicating that less amount of illegal drugs entered the country,” Presstv quoted him as telling newsmen in the northeastern city of Bojnourd on Tuesday.
He did not provide details on the actual amount of seizures.
Iran has implemented tighter security along its crime-infested eastern frontiers to crack down on drug trafficking and organized crime, he said.
“On our northern borders, however, we have safer conditions,” he said, adding that this should not lead to neglecting that region as drug traffickers can change course and move to the northern or western frontiers.
Iran is located on the transit corridor between world’s number one narco-state Afghanistan and drug dealers in Europe.
Iranian police say drug production in the neighboring war-torn country shot up 40-fold since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
According to UN figures Afghanistan produced 185 tons of opium per year under the Taliban. Since the US-led military attack the figure has surged to 3,400 tons. In 2007 opium trade reached an all-time production high of 8,200 tons.
Afghan and western NGOs blame Washington and NATO for the rapidly worsening situation saying the West has “overlooked” the drug crises for the nine years since it invaded and occupied the impoverished land.
Iran has lost more than 3,500 of its security personnel and police in the seemingly unending war against the smugglers and death merchants.
Germany’s Afghan Envoy Meets MP
A senior German official has called on Iran to play a bigger role in helping settle the Afghanistan crisis caused by the 2001 US-led invasion.
Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan, Michael Steiner, said the Islamic Republic plays an important role in finding solutions to the crisis in Afghanistan and called for closer cooperation from Tehran, IRNA reported.
“The West has made several mistakes in Afghanistan during recent years, including resorting to military approaches and paying no heed to the role of regional countries,” Steiner said in a meeting with head of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi in Tehran on Tuesday.
He added that any solution to the Afghan crisis demands cooperation of all the countries in the region, saying his government looks forward to joint efforts with Iran on Afghanistan.
Steiner stressed the importance of reaching a political understanding among influential players in the region and said military options cannot solve political problems or restore peace and stability to Afghanistan.
Boroujerdi said Iran’s declared Afghan policy is built on helping forge sustainable peace and stability in the war-ravaged Muslim country.
“Recent experience suggests that the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan has contributed to instability in the entire region,” he said.
“None of the aims of foreign militaries present in Afghanistan have been achieved while narcotics and terrorism are posing bigger threats to regional and international security,” he complained.
The lawmaker added that any workable solution to the Afghan problem demands the use of all regional capabilities.
He voiced Iran’s readiness to cooperate with other countries and help resolve the crises in Afghanistan and fight drug smuggling.
Briton Killed in Charity Car Rally
A British man has died in a road crash in Iran during a charity car rally, the UK Foreign Office said in London.
A second British man and another team member were said to be in a stable condition following the crash in the Mongol Rally 2010, Press Association reported on Wednesday.
The event sees competitors travel across Europe and Asia to Mongolia.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the accident happened in Mashhad, Iran.
A spokesman for the UK-based organizers, The Adventurists, said “We are deeply saddened to announce the death of a participant taking part in the Mongol Rally 2010.
“Our deepest sympathies and thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased at this difficult time.
“The team was involved in a serious traffic accident on Friday. Two team members were injured and are now in hospital in a stable condition. Sadly, one of the members of the team died as a result of his injuries.
“We will not release any information about the identity of the team or further details of the accident unless we are instructed to do so by the families involved as they wish to remain anonymous at this time.
“Reports confirm that nobody else has been hurt in this incident.”
Around 350 cars are taking part in the annual rally, which began last month.
Syria-Lebanon Harmony Welcome
The foreign policy advisor to the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has welcomed reconciliation talks between Lebanon and Syria, saying Iran supports understanding and unity among Muslim and Arab nations against Israeli aggression.
In a talk with the state-owned radio and TV organization on Tuesday, Ali-Akbar Velayati welcomed the July 31 visit to Beirut by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Saudi King Abdullah, describing the move as unprecedented.
Beirut-Damascus ties suffered after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Al-Hariri, which the West and their allies in the government in Beirut blamed on Syria.
Head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah revealed evidence in Beirut on Monday that point to Israel’s role in Hariri’s murder.
Experts believe that Assad’s historic visit to Beirut, which came weeks before the release of a report by the UN Special Tribunal for Hariri’s murder, set in motion a new era of close ties between Syria and Lebanon. The Saudi monarch’s historic visit to Lebanon marked the first of its kind since 1957.
Prior to his trip to Lebanon the king had conferred with Assad in the Syrian capital.
“The US and the Zionist regime may do something illogical in the Middle East, but they will receive a much stronger response than what they [have so far] got in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan,” Velayati stressed, pointing to the failure of US in achieving its aims in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was referring also to Tel Aviv’s humiliating defeat in its 33-day aggression on Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
The Leader’s advisor and a former foreign minister envisioned more defeat for Israel, saying “Any new military offensive against Lebanon by the Zionists will usher a much heavier defeat for Tel Aviv.”
Velayati returned from a tour of Lebanon and Syria during which he discussed mutual, regional and international issues with leaders in the two important Mideast states.
In Beirut he called on President Michel Sleiman, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri and Nasrallah.
Envoy Calls on Top Lebanese Commander
Iran’s ambassador in Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi said Tehran is willing to help equip the Lebanese armed forces.
Speaking in a meeting with the Commander of the Armed Forces of that country, General Jean Kahwagi in Beirut on Tuesday, Roknabadi said Iran is ready to help following a request by President Michel Sleiman, IRNA reported.
During the meeting, the two sides focused on the latest developments in Lebanon, particularly the recent Israeli aggression against Lebanese territory.
The two men met a week after deadly skirmishes between the Israeli military and Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon.
Three Lebanese soldiers and a journalist from Al-Akhbar newspaper and a senior Israeli officer were killed during the cross-border exchange of fire, which was the worst of its kind since Tel Aviv’s 33-day aggression against the Lebanese Hezbollah in the summer 2006.
The violence broke out after Israeli troops entered Lebanese territory, officials in Beirut said. Israel reportedly used phosphorus bombs in the attack. Roknabadi expressed his condolences to the Lebanese people over the “martyrdom” of the soldiers. The Lebanese commander appreciated Iran’s help to his country after the 33-day war and Tehran’s readiness to help Lebanon’s army confront Israeli aggressions.
Quake in Hormuzgan
An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale jolted the Khamir port in southern province of Hormuzgan on Wednesday. There were no reports on possible casualties or damage to property.